By: Akanksha A. Panicker


The legal responsibility for a child’s care is child custody. This may occur via physical custody (residency) or legal custody. Physical custody provides for where the child will live, while legal custody provides for decision-making power over things like education and health care. 

Legal custody does not necessarily always mean that only one parent has the authority to make decisions about the child. Joint custody is a situation where the two parents and other authorized caregivers (if indicated) of the child share authority amongst each other. These parents must thus communicate with each other enough to keep them informed about the child’s present circumstances and come to decisions together. Sole custody, on the other hand, leaves the non-custodial parent with the right to medical or educational information, but does not guarantee them the right to make decisions. 

Additionally, when referring to physical custody, courts often use the term primary placement to describe where the child usually lives. Visitation of the second parent is often termed secondary placement, and is often accompanied by a visitation schedule that suits both the child and the parent’s time constraints. If the Judge pronounces joint physical custody, the child lives with each parent for an equal amount of time. An Order of Custody on consent is an Order issued by the presiding judge in New York Family Court that typically establishes a custody and visitation arrangement that has been agreed to by the parties.

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